On Wednesday, Congress passed the latest COVID relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. President Biden is expected to sign the bill in the next few days.

In addition to the much-discussed $ 1,400 stimulus testing, the $ 1.9 trillion legislation includes a variety of funds to support states, vaccine distribution, small businesses, and most importantly, libraries. ARPA provides $ 200 million to the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal agency that provides library and museum grants, policy development, and research. In addition, public, academic and school libraries are eligible for billions of dollars in aid to meet critical public needs.

This level of funding marks the largest single increase in funding in IMLS ’25-year history. The $ 200 million will primarily fund the Library Services and Technology Act, a program that finances libraries through government grants and connects libraries through state, regional, national, and international networks. States receive IMLS funding based on population with a minimum of $ 2 million per state. These funds, in turn, will be allocated to local libraries for better access to technology, staff development programs, technical library needs, and more.

In a press release, American Library Association (ALA) President Julian C. Jefferson Jr. said, “ALA has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for months to ensure federal support for libraries and librarians. Transformative library services rely on the library staff who provide them. In many cases, ARPA means that libraries do not have to choose between funding community programs or paying the salaries of the professional staff they run. “

In addition to IMLS grants, libraries are eligible for a variety of other ARPA funding. Over $ 7 million is donated to the Emergency Education Connectivity Fund through the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program, which provides full reimbursement to libraries for certain loanable equipment to enable home users to access the Internet. Libraries can also qualify for funding to support public health and education programs, school openings, arts and humanities, and more.

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Libraries and librarians have always filled gaps in their communities to support needy patrons. This became particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has shown the extent to which Americans rely on libraries to access and navigate the Internet, find jobs and new skills, read and identify what information they can trust, and actively participate in their communities too get involved, “he told ALA President Jefferson. “At the same time, COVID-19 has forced many states and local governments to implement cuts and vacations that threaten the very services that communities rely on for help.”

Once President Biden signs the ARPA, some elements of the bill will take effect immediately, while others will enter a rules-setting process through federal agencies. Librarians can check the ALA’s ARPA website for more information as it becomes available.

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